B.K.S. Iyengar's Influence on US Yoga Studios Flows On

PHOTO: B.K.S. Iyengar gives a yoga demonstration to tennis players at a pre-Wimbledon party in a London suburb in June, 1960.

As news spread of yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar's death on Wednesday, disciples were quick to respond to the news via social media and other outlets with remembrances, gratitude and sorrow.

"As we mourn the passing of our great teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, we are filled with a sense of wonder and joy that one man could have touched so many lives for the better," the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the U.S. (IYNAUS) told ABC News in a statement. "Yesterday, Senior Iyengar teacher Manouso Manos told his students that he had once asked Mr. Iyengar about death and Iyengar replied that he did not know how he would die, but he knew that he would have given more to the world than he took from it. We are deeply moved by his example."

Iyengar, who died at age 95 in Pune, India, introduced his eponymous practice to the West when he first arrived in the United States in 1956. He continued at the center of the movement as yoga gained momentum here during the 1970s.

Students of Iyengar have ranged from novelist Aldous Huxley to Yoga Journal magazine co-founder Judith Lasater to pop star Madonna to domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, as well as myriad yoga instructors.

Iyengar classes are taught not only at official Institutes around the country but at chains, such as Yogaworks and Pure Yoga, as well as independent studios.

"I think it's impossible to underestimate his impact on the practice and the whole modern view of yoga," said Zubin Shroff, director of Piedmont Yoga in California, whose family studied with Iyengar. "He put an undeniable importance on the alignment approach and it is fundamental to any safe practice of yoga."

Iyengar is also credited for introducing the use of props, such as belts, blankets, benches, ropes and weights to yoga practice for accessibility.

"He had a particular talent for aiding people with different kinds of health problems, and there have been numerous medical studies of the effects of yoga based on his work," said IYNAUS Board of Directors President, Janet Lilly.

PHOTO: Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar teaches a class to 800 students at The 10th Annual Yoga Journal Colorado Conference in Estes Park, Colorado on Sept. 28, 2005.
Lyn Alweis/Denver Post/Getty Images
PHOTO: Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar teaches a class to 800 students at The 10th Annual Yoga Journal Colorado Conference in Estes Park, Colorado on Sept. 28, 2005.

Iyengar's legacy will continue to be upheld by his daughter Geeta and his son Prashant, both directors of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, stated representatives for the Institute. All over the world Iyengar Yoga centers will be sponsoring practice sessions in his memory in the coming days.

While the guri-ji, as he was honorably referred to, was known for inclusiveness, he also encouraged students to look past the material trappings of their practice.

"Students new to yoga might at first only be concerned with the physical performance of the asanas," said Lilly. "With time and practice they may come to agree with Mr. Iyengar’s statement from his 2005 publication, Light on Life:

“The yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, to the center of our being, the soul.”

Meanwhile, Shroff posited that Iyenger's transition may also open a door in the West for American yoga teachers to step forward as leaders in a more level playing field.

"We like to look from the West at teachers in India traditionally but [Iyengar] was a very creative, radical thinker," said Shroff. "And I think it's an exciting time for yoga in America when we're going to see some changes again."

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